‘The Beverly Hillbillies’: Series Creator Paul Henning Was Inspired By His Childhood Boy Scout Camping Trips

by Matthew Wilson

The creator of “The Beverly Hillbillies” felt inspired to make the series based on encounters that he had when he was just a boy.

Series creator Paul Henning went on camping expeditions as a child in Missouri. The Southern native was a part of the Boy Scouts as a youth. Sometimes, they would go on 14-mile hiking expeditions, out into the wilderness. Henning fell in love with nature and rural areas. Later when he became a writer, Henning drew from his youth to create “The Beverly Hillbillies.”

“I had always had a great affection for hillbillies, I think that started when I was a Boy Scout,” Henning said in an interview with the Television Academy Foundation. “I went to a camp in the Ozarks, a place called Noel, Missouri. It was right on the border of Arkansas, very close to the border. We would take 14-mile hikes. But anyways I always had a fondness for hillbillies.”

‘Beverly Hillbillies’ Creator Loved Hillbillies

Henning always had an affinity for hillbillies and rural folk. That definitely shone through in his work on television. Not only was Henning responsible for creating “The Beverly Hillbillies” but he also created both “Green Acres” and “Petticoat Junction” as well.

Henning always enjoyed the humor of the characters. One of his creative influences was a play called “Tobacco Road,” written in 1933. Henning used to watch the play in Kansas City and enjoyed the play’s comedic elements.

“I had always been an admirer of hillbillies, I enjoyed their humor,” Henning said. “I remember seeing ‘Tobacco Road’ on the stage in Kansas City. And just finding it hilarious. ‘Tobacco Road’ is not the kind of setting you would want for television. Because it’s rather depressing. But I enjoyed the comedy.”

Henning’s work didn’t only show hillbillies or rural folks in their natural elements. The creator was interested in clashes of culture and fish-out-of-water stories. For instance, “The Beverly Hillbillies” focused on a group of rural farmers and how they might react if they suddenly became millionaires. The show found comedy in them adjusting to life in Beverly Hills and their interactions with wealthy people of that area.

Meanwhile, Henning’s other work “Green Acres” focused on if a wealthy couple decided they wanted to become farmers. They often struggled to a different way of living, facing the obstacles of living out in rural areas. Both shows focused on different walks of life and exchange of cultures, often for comedic value and personal growth.